Thursday, 15 January 2015

Abbott Government health funding cuts will hit home on the NSW North Coast

New South Wales residents can expect the state public hospital system to experience a further strain on service delivery in 2015 courtesy of both federal Abbott Coalition and state Baird Coalition governments' health policies.

On 5 June 2014 The Sydney Morning Herald reported:

The Bureau of Health Information report released on Thursday shows that from January to March more than 600,000 people visited NSW public hospital emergency departments, a 2 per cent jump compared to the same time last year.
About 73 per cent of patients left emergency departments within four hours, up from 66 per cent last year, but still falling far short of the 81 per cent target…..
The new figures show that while about 97 per cent of people are getting surgery on time, some patients are still waiting more than six months.
Median waiting times for ear, nose and throat surgery are now 153 days. Gynaecology, urology and prostate surgery waits increased between seven to 10 per cent.
''NSW still has the longest waiting times for elective surgery in Australia and close to the longest in developed countries,'' said Dr McDonald. ''A 302-day median wait time for a knee replacement is just unacceptable.''

On 11 January 2015The Australian noted:

NSW has abandoned a national target for attending to people who need treatment in hospital emergency departments after the federal government cut reward payments.
Under a national partnership deal struck between the states and the commonwealth in 2011 under the Gillard government, all states were meant to have reached a benchmark of seeing 90 per cent of patients in emergency departments within four hours from January 1 this year.
The agreement included rewards of $50 million a year for reaching this target, but in the federal budget last year the government abolished the payments.
NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner said, because of that, “there is currently no formal target tied to rewards payments”.
NSW intended to keep to last year’s target of 81 per cent instead of using the new target of 90 per cent, she said.
Although emergency department performance has been improving, it has not met national benchmarks…..

In practice this means that during a year public hospital emergency departments are expected to experience an increase in the number of patients presenting because the Abbott Government has cost-shifted its Medicare rebate cuts onto individuals and families from January 20151, its public hospital funding cuts have also made matters worse for those seeking treatment at hospital accident and emergency departments.

The figure below clearly shows the best that the ill or hurt in NSW could expect in late 2014 – an average wait to receive treatment of between 41 minutes and 2 hours 29 minutes for the majority attending A&E departments.

The 95th percentile represents the time period within which most people received the relevant care or treatment.

On the NSW Far North Coast this averaged out for the majority of patients seeking treatment as a wait of between 29 minutes and 2 hours 11 minutes:

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) is predicting that public hospital emergency department waiting times will now rise not by a factor of minutes but by hours in 2015.

1. Increased GP fees are expected to commence from mid-January 2015 and increase again in July for over 15 million Australians, as Medicare rebates cover less of general practice & specialist doctors standard fees. Many patients will be paying a standard upfront fee of $75 or more for a simple 10 minute visit to their local doctor as fewer medical practices are expected to continue bulk billing. The Medicare rebate formula would have meant that the the federal government met half of that cost for non-concessional patients. However, from 1 July 2015 the medicare rebate on a $75 fee will be reduced to $32.04 leaving the patient $42.95 out-of-pocket.
If a medical practice decides to use the AMA recommended schedule of fees and abandon bulk-billing all together, then concessional patients (such as aged and disability pensioners or children under 16 years) will also have to pay an upfront fee of $75 for a 10 minutes consultation and be $34.95 out-of-pocket.
For non-concessional patients seen by their doctor for between 6 and 10 minutes the rebate reduction will increase their out-of-pocket expense to $20.10 from 19 January rising to $25.10 after 30 June 2015.


A statement that needs to be taken with a grain of salt…….

The Sydney Morning Herald 15 January 2015 at 12:34pm:

The government has capitulated and scrapped its plans to next week cut the Medicare rebate by $20 for short visits to the doctor after a fierce backlash by doctors and non-government Senators, who vowed to veto the measure.
In her first act as the new Health Minister, Sussan Ley broke her holidays to announce on Thursday that the cuts - quietly introduced by her predecessor Peter Dutton late last year - are now "off the table".
Ms Ley said she was still committed to introducing price signals into Medicare including the revised $5 GP co-payment due to start July 1, but pledged to "pause, listen and consult".....

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